Can the Caymans save the Caribbean’s remaining coral reefs?

February 13, 2019 by  
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A rehabilitation program for coral reef species has proven to be successful for an ongoing project to combat a massive disease spreading throughout the Cayman’s pillar coral species, according to the Department of the Environment in the Cayman Islands. The rapidly spreading disease, called “white band disease”, was first noticed on a famous dive site called the Killer Pillars in February 2018. It has ravaged pillar coral throughout the Caribbean and destroyed almost 90 percent of the species along the Florida coast. Scientists in the Cayman Islands removed diseased coral from the reef and selected healthy fragments to grow in a nursery. They later planted healthy coral back onto the reef, in hopes the fragments became resilient enough to resist the disease and build back the reef. Though the project is still an experiment, the results look promising thus far and can have wide implications on how other islands respond to this disease throughout the region. The Caribbean already lost 80 percent of all coral reefs Throughout the world, coral reefs are seriously vulnerable and rapidly dying. Reefs are thought to host the most biodiversity of any ecosystem in the world– even more than a rainforest . Despite their importance, reefs are critically vulnerable to small changes in the environment. Slight increases in ocean temperature cause widespread die-off throughout Caribbean and Pacific reefs. Additional threats include pollution, over fishing and run-off of nitrogen from farms that fertilize algae and causes it to smother reefs. Abandoned fishing gear also wreaks havoc on reefs and creates an opportunity for disease. “Fishing line not only causes coral tissue injuries and skeleton damage, but also provides an additional surface for potential pathogens to colonize, increasing their capacity to infect wounds caused by entangled fishing line,” says Dr. Joleah Lamb from the Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. Coral reefs are home to nearly 25 percent of all marine species and sustain the fishing industry. They are paramount to Caribbean economies and are an important defense for small islands and coastal communities during hurricanes . Evidence shows their structures reduce damaging wave energy by nearly 97 percent . Also, reefs attract dive tourists and help build beaches by breaking down into sand. Experiments such as the one in the Cayman Islands are critically important for ensuring the reefs that do remain, are healthy and functioning. How does the project in the Cayman Islands work? Along with marine scientists from the U.K. and U.S., coral experts from the Department of the Environment removed diseased coral from the reef in order to stem the alarming spread of the disease. They then cut segments of healthy coral to regrow in nurseries. Coral nurseries, a growing trend in coral restoration, are structures constructed in clean, sandy sections of the ocean floor. Scientists attach healthy coral fragments to the simple structures, often made out of PVC pipe, and monitor them as they grow in a safe environment. Once the corals are strong, healthy and considerably larger in size than the original fragments, the scientists plant them back onto the original reef or select new sites to start a reef. Related: Using nature to build resilient communities Coral nurseries are popping up around the Caribbean Impressively, 100 percent of the coral fragments in the Department of Environment’s nursery survived. Coral nurseries are a restoration technique popular throughout the Caribbean basin, including Bonaire, Curacao, Grenada, the Virgin Islands and many restoration and research laboratories in Florida. Disease is still a threat After their successful growth in the nursery, 81 percent of the fragments re-planted were still alive after five months. This is a considerable success rate given the threats these corals face. However, 23 percent of the planted fragments also showed signs of the relentless “white band disease” (Acroporid white syndrome). Researchers have not given up hope and recognize that if kept contained, disease can be a natural part of ecosystems. “We do know that diseases have their seasons, they come and go, they are vigorous for a while and then they die back, and at that point we have to see some kind of coral colony recovery,” Tim Austin, Deputy Director of the Department of Environment, told Cayman 27 News . “We are monitoring it and we are hoping to have a better handle on how this disease progresses.” In addition to techniques such as reducing marine debris, pollution and establishing protected conservation zones around reefs, coral salvage projects are an important technique to ensure that Caribbean’s the remaining corals survive. “If longer-term monitoring results prove equally successful, the salvage, relocation and restoration of actively diseased coral colonies could become an everyday tool in the restoration toolbox of coral reef managers,” the Department of Environment reported . Via Yale 360 Image via Shutterstock

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Can the Caymans save the Caribbean’s remaining coral reefs?

If you won’t go vegan for yourself, will you do it for Beyonc?

February 6, 2019 by  
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If going vegan to help better the environment does not appeal you, why not try it out for Queen B herself? Beyoncé just announced a new vegan initiative on Instagram, and probably did more for the cause in a single post than anyone has done for in the last decade. Last week, the iconic singer announced the start of The Greenprint Project , which aims to promote veganism with a very special offer from Beyoncé and her husband, JAY-Z. If you try out a plant-based diet through Beyoncé’s program, you have a chance to take home free Beyoncé tickets for the rest of your life. Let that sink in. For all of Beyoncé’s devoted fans around the world, few things would get in the way of scoring such an amazing prize — let alone switching up a diet. The program doesn’t call for a 100 percent vegan diet in order to enter the pool, however, the initiative is to push people out of the norm and to try a plant-based diet for a day or even just a single meal — which is incredible. Related: These are the world’s top vegan cities Even better, allowing people some flexibility in their diet still has tremendous benefits for the environment. Not only is it easier to go vegan for a day or a meal, but millions of people doing this on a weekly basis could really cut down on carbon pollution,  which is precisely what Beyoncé had in mind when she launched the project. “If 100,000,000 of my friends also ate more plant-based meals, we could cut enough carbon emissions equivalent to powering 1,169,169,665 homes for a year,” Beyoncé’s project statement reads. There are a few minor catches to the prize. For starters, the free tickets for life only last up to 30 years, which means you’ll still be able to watch Beyoncé perform until she’s in her late 60s. The lucky winner can also only receive $599 worth of tickets every year. Given how VIP tickets for such events usually cost around $2,000, that won’t get you far. The tickets are non-transferable upon death, but if you are eating a plant-based diet, you probably won’t have to worry about punching out early. Via Grist Image via Shutterstock

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A midcentury warehouse becomes a vibrant office for creatives

February 6, 2019 by  
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Australian architecture and interior design firm Studio 103 has given a tired warehouse on Melbourne’s Hoddle Street in Abbotsford a new lease on life as their new modern and light-filled workplace. The adaptive reuse project sensitively references the building’s manufacturing history, from retaining existing architectural elements to the application of an industrial-inspired material palette. The rehabbed structure now serves as a modern and agile workplace that prioritizes health and wellbeing through ample access to natural light, a gym and plenty of greenery. Formerly used by British haberdashery manufacturing company Faire Brothers & Co for producing clothing parts in the 1940s, the warehouse at 310 Hoddle Street has changed hands over the decades, yet has always remained in the textile industry. Now defunct, Studio 103 seized the chance to repurpose the old warehouse as part of a growing adaptive reuse trend in Abbotsford. The interior design firm teamed up with building partners McCormack Property Services, who are conveniently located in the building right next door. “We saw this as a great opportunity to establish a streamlined working relationship between Studio 103 and our partners McCormack,” says Tom Yang, Senior Interior Designer at Studio 103. “We set out to create a unique, functional space which retains its original industrial charm, utilizing the existing architectural features as a foundation – but our end goal was to promote integration between Studio 103 and McCormack Property Services .” Related: An old warehouse is remade into a stylish hotel with a copper chevron crown The rehabbed warehouse has been divided into a series of zones conducive to collaboration between both companies. Industrial influences can be seen in the preserved architecture—the original red brick walls, large black-framed windows and polished concrete flooring—along with new sleek additions such as the industrial-inspired shelving. The designers also added floor-to-ceiling windows that flood the interiors with natural light, while timber trusses and greenery lend a sense of warmth. + Studio 103 Images by Jack Lovel

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Cargill announces plan to reduce deforestation from cocoa

January 29, 2019 by  
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One of the worlds top three food corporations, Cargill, announced a plan to reduce deforestation caused by their cocoa farmers. The plan, Protect our Planet , promises 100 percent traceability of cocoa beans in Cote d’Ivoire by 2020 and zero clearing of forested land for plantations in both Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire. The plan also covers Brazil, Indonesia and Cameroon and includes a wide scale mapping project that identifies the exact size and location of every small farm. Cargill has already mapped 90,000 farms and conducted risk assessments for over 2.3 million hectares. The mapping aims to improve traceability, transparency and accountability. Through GPS technology , Cargill can track farmers’ tree cover, cultivation methods, fertilizers, boundaries and can therefore refuse beans from farmers who spread into forested or protected lands. An improved barcode and electronic payment system, combined with finance training for farmers, means that beans can be traced back to farmers and ensures they are compensated right away. Deforestation is largely due to increasing demand for chocolate combined with poverty, which forces farmers to exploit their land for increase production, such as using harmful chemical fertilizers. When old trees become less productive and land is degraded, farmers often seek new land and may clear forested areas. Related: Deforestation could wipe out over 50 percent of species in Haiti “Global production relies almost entirely on five to six million smallholders,” a study on cocoa-related deforestation reports. “While the deforestation occurs at the smallholder level, it is the companies, governments, and NGOs that need to take action due to the limited technical and economic capacity of smallholders to enact the necessary reforms on their own.” Many small farmers lack government-recognized land rights, which could impact their access once all farms are officially monitored and mapped. Despite investments in building community awareness about climate-smart agriculture , when farmers exhaust cocoa production on their land, will this plan limit their individual growth and livelihoods while Cargill still has the option to move on to farmers with more productive land? When Cargill’s emissions are calculated in combination with the other four largest food corporations, their carbon footprint is larger than BP, Exxon Mobile or Shell. Though serious action on deforestation by major corporations is overdue and paramount to making an impact of scale, it remains to be seen how much this sustainability plan will impact small farmers, while Cargill’s unrivaled power and polluting capacity remain unchecked. Via AllAfrica Image via Shutterstock

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How environmental policies changed in 2018 under Trump

December 28, 2018 by  
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There is no doubt that President Trump has significantly changed environmental policy since taking office that have caused a great deal of public outcry. The current administration’s decisions have affected everything from rolling back on policies enacted by former Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton to cutting funding for different environmental and scientific programs. With so much to keep up with, here is a rundown of the Trump Administration’s environmental action in 2018 and how it has impacted the planet. EPA loosens toxic air pollution regulations A Clinton-era policy known as “once in, always in” or OIAI was an effort to permanently reduce the hazardous air pollution from industrial sources. The law required major sources of pollution to retool their processes and reduce their emissions to lower levels set by industry peers. This was known as Maximum Achievable Control Technology, or MACT, standards. Industry lawyers have long argued that eliminating OIAI would give businesses a stronger incentive to reduce emissions , and in a brief legal memo, Trump’s EPA abruptly dropped OIAI at the beginning of 2018. NASA climate monitoring program cut Back in May, the Trump administration ended NASA’s carbon monitoring system (CMS), which was an effort to improve the monitoring of global carbon emissions. The program cost $10 million a year, but a March 2018 spending deal did not include funding for the program. CMS supported work was relevant to the Paris Agreement because it verified if other nations were meeting their pledges to reduce carbon emissions. But the Trump administration has rejected that agreement and is downsizing the NASA climate science program. Rollbacks proposed for Endangered Species Act rules This summer, the Trump administration proposed to make several key changes to the 1973 Endangered Species Act, including eliminating a rule that forbids referring to the economic impact of listing a threatened species. The changes would still allow for determinations to be based on biological considerations, and they also would give regulators more freedom, so they can avoid designating critical habitat for endangered species . Fuel economy rule change One of the signature climate change policies from President Obama was a plan to increase vehicle mileage standards for cars made during the next decade. However, the Trump administration is dismantling the plan, but not nixing it entirely. President Obama’s plan required light cars made after 2012 to average almost 54 miles per gallon by 2025, with hopes that the new efficiency standards would save billions of barrels of oil . However, President Trump has mileage targets of 34 miles per gallon because some automakers believe anything more than that would be too difficult to reach. Methane rules repealed Another rollback to Obama’s climate change policy, Trump’s EPA reduced the requirements on oil and gas companies to monitor the releases of methane from wells. Some in the industry had complained that the Obama rules were too much of a burden and a “record-keeping nightmare” that was impossible to execute. However, when the EPA announced this new rule, the attorneys general in California and New Mexico filed a lawsuit to challenge the change. EPA air pollution review panel disbanded The Particulate Matter Review Panel – made of scientists who are experts in the health dangers of soot – has advised the EPA over the years about safe levels of air pollution. However, they will no longer meet starting in 2019, but they didn’t reveal why. Conservation groups believe that eliminating the panel will make it easier to roll back pollution standards, but they had also complained that the panel wasn’t robust enough to protect public health. Ocean plastic cleanup bill In October, President Trump signed legislation to improve efforts to clean up plastic trash from the world’s oceans. He also called out nations like China and Japan for using the oceans as landfills and said that he will do everything he can during his Presidency to stop them. The law passed with bipartisan support, and it amended the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Marine Debris Act. It also funded the program through 2022. Arctic offshore drilling approved Earlier this year, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management issued Hilcorp a conditional use permit for its Liberty Project, and they will begin drilling from an artificial island in the Beaufort Sea. The federally controlled waters of the U.S. arctic have been cleared for oil and gas production wells after years of debate about the risks and rewards. Coal power plant rollback In 2015, the Obama Administration adopted a rule restricting carbon dioxide pollution from future power plants. The energy industry criticized the rule, saying the technology was unproven and the required equipment was extremely expensive. So, earlier this month, the Trump administration rolled back the climate rule by lifting some of the restrictions on greenhouse gas emissions from coal power plants. The goal is to spur construction of new coal plants and to relieve America’s energy providers of excessive burdens. Via National Geographic Image via Sam Jotham Sutharson

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Washed Ashore: 4 Innovative Products From Upcycled Marine Plastic

December 4, 2018 by  
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Earth911 Podcast, Nov. 9, 2018: Puget Sound Keepers Disputes Washington CAFO Waste Pond Ruling

November 9, 2018 by  
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The Washington State Pollution Control Hearings Board disappointed environmental leaders … The post Earth911 Podcast, Nov. 9, 2018: Puget Sound Keepers Disputes Washington CAFO Waste Pond Ruling appeared first on Earth911.com.

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Indonesia accepts plastic bottles in exchange for free bus rides

October 23, 2018 by  
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Plastic waste is a huge problem in Indonesia , and this has led the country’s second-largest city to come up with a novel approach to encourage residents to recycle — free bus rides in exchange for used plastic bottles and cups. The city of Surabaya launched the initiative back in April, and commuters can ride city buses by either dropping off the plastic bottles and cups at terminals or using the plastic items to pay their fare directly. Under the new recycling initiative, a two-hour bus ticket costs up to five plastic bottles or 10 plastic cups, depending on the size. The city hopes this scheme will help it meet its target of becoming free of plastic waste by 2020. “ Garbage , like plastic bottles, piles up in my neighborhood, so I brought it here, so the environment is not only cleaner but also to help ease the workload of garbage collectors,” said Linda Rahmawat, a resident of Surabaya. Related: Indonesia mobilizes 20,000 citizens to clean up plastic pollution According to Reuters , Surabaya is the first Indonesian city to implement this program, and data show that 15 percent (nearly 400 tons) of the city’s daily waste is plastic. The data also show that one bus can collect up to 550 pounds of plastic each day, totaling about 7.5 tons each month. After collecting the plastic waste, workers remove labels and bottle caps before the plastic is sold to recycling companies. This money then goes toward bus operations and to fund urban green spaces. The head of Surabaya’s transportation department, Irvan Wahyu Drajad, said that Indonesia is one of the world’s biggest contributors of plastic waste , and the city hopes that this new system will raise public awareness for the environment and the problem of pollution. Via Reuters Image via Rudi Lansky

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A disgraceful cascade of trash follows a rare Yellowstone Ear Spring geyser eruption

October 8, 2018 by  
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While tourists flock from all corners of the globe to witness the Yellowstone National Park geysers such as famous Old Faithful, it is a small and relatively-unknown geyser catching international attention this time around. Ear Spring had been quiet for about 60 years until its recent September 15 eruption that featured a fountain of trash gushing from its depths. The natural phenomena generally emit steam and hot water, but this 30-foot surge included a plethora of oddities thrown out by tourists over the course of nearly 90 years. In the aftermath, Yellowstone National Park’s official Facebook page issued a statement saying,  “After Ear Spring erupted on September 15, employees found a strange assortment of items strewn across the landscape around its vent!” A few of the items dated back to the 1930s. “Some are clearly historic,” the post read. “They’ll be inventoried by curators and may end up in Yellowstone’s archives.” Related: The world’s tallest active geyser keeps erupting in Yellowstone – and scientists don’t know why While throwing garbage into the geyser is prohibited, if not deterred by common sense, the landmark-turned-landfill had much to expel. Cigarette butts, plastic utensils and straws, film wrappers and other random articles, including a baby pacifier from the 1930s, littered the ground after the eruption.  “Foreign objects can damage hot springs and geysers,” explained the park, following the disgraceful display. “The next time Ear Spring erupts, we hope it’s nothing but natural rocks and water.” The small geyser’s spout was minor in comparison with other eruptions that are common in the area. Yellowstone is home to the world’s tallest active geyser, Steamboat, whose emissions can reach heights of 300 feet. The natural fountains gush steam and water in rapid patterns much like fireworks, and active geysers can erupt multiple times daily, such as Old Faithful, whose spouts can be admired every 35 to 120 minutes. While geyser eruptions can be magnificent, they are certainly less so when spewing decades of pollution. Via TreeHugger and The Huffington Post Image via Yellowstone National Park

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A disgraceful cascade of trash follows a rare Yellowstone Ear Spring geyser eruption

Sustainability in Your Ear — Tapp Water’s Biodegradable Water Faucet Filters Slashes Plastic Pollution

October 2, 2018 by  
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